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Bremerton duo works to save historic cabin

Bob Dollar, left, and John Larson stand in front of Bremerton’s Naval Ammunition Depot cabin, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933. The pair have formed a new nonprofit to save the structure. - Kevan Moore/staff photo
Bob Dollar, left, and John Larson stand in front of Bremerton’s Naval Ammunition Depot cabin, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933. The pair have formed a new nonprofit to save the structure.
— image credit: Kevan Moore/staff photo

Bremerton residents John Larson and Bob Dollar are on a mission to save the city’s old Naval Artillery Depot guardhouse cabin at the entrance of NAD Park.

The pair has worked tirelessly to create a nonprofit foundation to restore the cabin and create a space for the public to enjoy for years to come.

They’ve registered as a charity with the Secretary of State, obtained state and city businesses licenses and most recently secured official nonprofit status with the federal government as the NAD Guardhouse Cabin Foundation.

The next hurdle is hammering out a lease with the city before beginning a fund-raising push.

Architects and engineers estimate it will cost about $200,000 to restore the cabin. As it stands now, several log segments give way to a screwdriver like a hot knife in butter.

“We saw there was a possibility of the city not dealing with the cabin because they don’t have the money or resources,” Dollar said. “Our goal is to renovate it as a community meeting space and also have it be a place to display and tell the history of NAD.”

Larson noted that the possibility of losing the cabin is not without precedent.

“Last year, the city tore down the caretaker’s cabin which had been boarded up since 1964 when the city got the park property from the Navy,” Larson said. “We saw that as a loss and didn’t want to see the same thing happen to this cabin after the Boy Scouts left.”

The Boy Scouts re-dedicated the cabin in 1989, did some renovation and added more space around that time, but they recently moved to a larger retail space in Silverdale.

That’s when Larson and Dollar got to work.

Bremerton Parks and Recreation Director Wyn Birkenthal said he is a strong proponent of the efforts by Larson and Dollar because preserving old structures is an expensive task for the city to keep up with.

“When those structures don’t have a critical, 365-day-per-year function, it is hard to locate dollars for repairs,” Birkenthal said. “John, Bob and (their) group have done quite a bit of research looking at similar, non government funded cabin restoration efforts on Bainbridge and in the San Juan Islands and they are well prepared for the task they are looking to undertake. I’m confident Bremerton’s park system will be better off because of their efforts.”

Larson, who is an architect, is serving as the new foundation’s president and Dollar, who is a Navy veteran and retired civil servant, is serving as vice president and treasurer. Other board members include Bernie Flemming, a historian and curator; Deirdre McKeel, an engineering technician in the shipyard; and Cindy Duvall, an artist and owner of Calypso Glass. Eventually, there will be eight to 12 board members. Larson and Dollar said they are looking for folks with knowledge about grant writing, fund-raising and building renovation or restoration, to step up.

“One of the downsides of the West side of Bremerton near Kitsap Lake is there’s no meeting space,” Dollar said. “So, we’ll invite small clubs to come and use our space. We’re also hoping to work with a group from Bainbridge Island that worked on the Yeomelt Cabin. They have a lot of experience with the actual restoration of a cabin.”

Larson said the new foundation will rely on volunteers to come open up the cabin when various groups schedule use of the space.

“We hope that it will become a sort of focal point for the park itself,” Larson said.

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